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Theater Review: 'Chaplin' -- 2 stars

Rob McClure as Charlie Chaplin in

Rob McClure as Charlie Chaplin in " Chaplin the Musical" (Joan Marcus) Credit: Rob McClure as Charlie Chaplin in " Chaplin the Musical" (Joan Marcus)

2 stars

You've probably seen worse musicals than "Chaplin," a forgettable biography of Charlie Chaplin. But how did this slow-paced and sentimental musical, which has the taste of a cup of coffee mixed with a dozen packets of sugar, make it to Broadway?

The songs of Christopher Curtis - who has previously written theme songs for the Discovery Channel - are occasionally tuneful but mostly tacky. Still, they are far better than the show's melodramatic and strange book.

A straightforward Act One observes Chaplin's rise to fame as the Little Tramp in broad brush strokes. Act Two depicts an increasingly political Chaplin waging battle with gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and courting of his fourth wife Oona O'Neill.

At least "Chaplin" provides a very nimble Rob McClure, who is best known as a replacement cast member in "Avenue Q," with a much deserved starring role.

McClure handles the role's physical demands with aplomb, including walking a tightrope, roller-skating and Chaplin's trademark shuffle. The cast is rounded out by Broadway regulars including Christiane Noll, who does her best with the odd role of Chaplin's mentally unstable mother; an energetic Michael McCormick as silent film icon Mack Sennett; and the quirky Jenn Colella as Hopper.

Despite a strange ensemble ballet where a chorus line dresses up like the Little Tramp, director-choreographer Warren Carlyle provides a somewhat professional staging designed with a black-and-white motif.

Even if "Chaplin" were a better crafted musical, it would still remain a mostly futile enterprise. Why see an impersonation of Chaplin instead of just watching Chaplin himself in his best films?

If you go: "Chaplin" plays an open run at the Barrymore Theatre. 243 W. 47th St., 212-239-6200,


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